Lifting of Cherokee Lake ban too little, too late for some

George Thwaites • Sep 18, 2015 at 12:46 AM

As of Tuesday, the section of Cherokee Lake that has been off limits to fishing since July 15 was reopened to anglers.

The lifting of the ban was too late to do a couple of area bass anglers any good for this past weekend’s tournament on Cherokee.

“A couple of my buddies were disappointed. They thought they could fish below Point 3 already but they were informed that they couldn’t,” said Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton.

“Down the lake, the smallmouth have pretty much quit for a while,” he said.

“A lot of guys would like to have gotten in there for that tournament. Nobody has fished it for two months.”

The seasonal bans at the dam area originated from the tendency of striped bass and hybrids to take refuge in the deep water of that area in the hottest months of summer.

The area was also supplemented by aeration hoses, intended to prevent the deep layers of water from becoming depleted of oxygen — another drawing card for stripers.

Before the seasonal bans, there was a terrific amount of fishing pressure on these deep fish. Many of the fishermen flocked to the area from out of state.

The catches were terrific. Trouble was, striped bass hoisted up from the deeps would experience a rapid inflation of the swim bladder. When anglers released these fish (culling for larger ones) the bloated bladders could not naturally deflate quickly enough for the fish to rapidly return to the cooler depths. Many floundered in the warmer water, stressed out and died.

Anglers on Cherokee Lake continue to debate the merits of the policy. But as of this week, it became moot until July 15, 2016.

As for the bass fishing, Colyer noted the best bite during last weekend’s tournament was up in the river, from Church House point to as far upstream as you could go in Rogersville.

“I think that’s where just about everybody who weighed in a good stringer went. Most were caught on a Rapala DT-6 or other square-billed crankbait ... although I know one guy who did real good on a deep jig ,” Colyer said.

Hybrids have been encountered from the Boy Scout Camp on down to German Creek.

Closer to home, anglers on the Clinch River report good smallmouth being caught on little Big O crankbaits (crawdad pattern) and 3-inch black-and-green pumpkin grubs.

On the fly fishing beat, Todd Boyer at Mahoney’s Sportsman’s Paradise in Johnson City reports the Blue Winged Olives — whether Blue Quills or baetis — are hatching in abundance on the Watauga tailwater.

Small baetis nymphs, BWO dries and the Size 16 tan caddis have been effective flies on that river. Yes, the caddis are getting eaten.

“On the South Holston there are still some sulphurs hatching. There is still a lot of Zebra midge and double-rigging Zebra midges going on,” Boyer said. “When you see (trout) sipping and you can’t figure out what they’re eating, that little Morgan’s midge works out great on top.”

Lower water levels appear to be the norm on mountain streams like Rocky Fork Creek, he said.

George Thwaites is a sports and outdoors writer for the Kingsport Times-News. He is on Twitter as @KTNSptsThwaites. Send your fishing photos to: outdoors@timesnews.net.